The Unfinished Business: Conflicts, the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development

By Udombana, Nsongurua J. | The George Washington International Law Review, January 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Unfinished Business: Conflicts, the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development


Udombana, Nsongurua J., The George Washington International Law Review


[T]here are moments when I feel that we are all trapped in a mammoth factory known as the African continent, where all the machinery appears to have gone out of control all at once. No sooner do you fix the levers than the pistons turn hyperactive in another part of the factory, then the conveyor belt snaps and knocks out the foreman, the boiler erupts and next the whirling blades of the cooling fans lose one of their members which flies off and decapitate the leader of the team of would-be investors-the last hope of resuscitating the works. That, alas, is the story of our human factory on this continent.1

I. INTRODUCTION

The Organization of African Unity (OAU or Organization) is dead. The final rites of passage were performed at the last summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU in South Africa from July 9-10, 2002.2 Another baby has been born to take the OAU's place-the African Union (AU). A vague anticipation in 1999(3) gave way to a startling sense of possibility and reality in July 2000, when the Assembly of the OAU adopted the Constitutive Act of the AU4 in Lome, Togo. The Act replaces the Charter of the OAU.5 The AU has a sister, born on October 23, 2001 in Abuja, Nigeria-the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).6 NEPAD is:

a pledge by African leaders, based on a common vision and a firm and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable economic growth and development, and, at the same time, to participate actively in the world economy and body politic.7

The AU Act, together with NEPAD, intends to extend and deepen Africa's regional commitment towards democracy, human rights, economic and political integration, sustainable development, and peace and security.8 It is, however, not yet clear if the AU is a mere reincarnation of the OAU or an entirely new plan for African development; although the OAU Secretary-General has given an assurance that it is a new entity.9

To the effect of making a brief eulogy, the OAU's contributions towards the restoration of political independence in all of Africa undoubtedly tops its list of achievements. The Organization strengthened the anti-colonial lobby in the United Nations (U.N.) and gave material and diplomatic support to the liberation movements.10 This "represents concrete achievement of the pan-African movement."11 Although slightly overstated, the OAU sums up its achievements in the following words: "Through huge sacrifices and heroic struggles, Africa has broken the colonial yoke, regained its freedom and embarked upon the task of nation-building."12 There were, however, many shopping lists of tasks that the OAU could not complete.13 The reserve domain doctrine, the policy of non-interference14-a doctrine that succeeded in making African leaders accessories before, during, and after state criminality-largely facilitated the OAU's failures. The OAU became largely a club whose members entertained intensive social relations among themselves and tended to show a sort of group solidarity towards the outside world.

There is no point in moping and sulking about the past and, in particular, on the failures of the OAU. It is the duty of every age to strive to find its own truth. As Mammo Muchie puts it, "[w]hat the OAU was able to do, it has done. What was beyond it has to pass on to the African Union."15 Certainly, the avalanche of unresolved conflicts in the continent and the new ones that brew up from time to time are part of the unfinished business of the OAU that the leaders of the AU and NEPAD will have to urgently address. Conflict resolution and the peace, security, and stability were no doubt major concerns of the OAU from the beginning. The Organization deployed tremendous efforts towards a search for peaceful resolution of conflicts in Africa, but the rewards were not always commensurate with the efforts invested. …

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